Selected Poetry

by P. L. Thomas

the inevitable weight of these gifts

I don’t think
I’m allowed

To kill something
“Allowables,” Nikki Giovanni

he kept gifting people
neatly wrapped boxes of impossible

beautiful delicate people
kind giving and hopeful

like gently placing a bowling ball
on the back of a spider

all the care in the world
all the good intentions

would not prevent the weight of this
and the inevitable crushing

oasis (the weight of that stone)

Will I wait a lonely lifetime
If you want me to, I will
“I Will,” The Beatles

she fell in love with him
because he felt like an oasis

a welcomed and needed sanctuary
from anything—no everything—else

found she believed in this otherwise drought
this wandering the desert of loneliness

alive and sustained now she faced
this dilemma of confessing his gift of life

how to tell him “you are the everything
without crushing him under the weight of that stone

—P.L. Thomas

a whole host of bafflements: the negligence of privilege

There are poets who are resigned to not being able to save the world, who barely have enough time to catch up with themselves and the attendant mystery of their fear and being.
“On Fear,” Mary Ruefle

a whole host of bafflements
await us on this planet
just by being human

our too big brains
heavier than gravity
anchor us to this earth

though we don’t know what to do
with all the time we have created
for we the few but not the others

survival is reductive

I was afraid/I’d eat your brains

“Conversation 16,” The National

We’re drunk and sparking, our legs are open
Our hands are covered in cake
But I swear we didn’t have any

“The Geese of Beverly Road,” The National

of all places (and through Twitter)
The New York Times tells me
the Greenland shark may be
the longest living vertebrae

i learn that this sea creature
“… has a life expectancy of at least 272 years”
and then i look at a photo
recognizing survival is reductive

bullet-bodied and steel-eyed
everything mythologized about sharks
terrifies me sitting here 200 miles from an ocean
frivolously drinking a second cup of coffee with honey and cream

my literary mind is rattled
Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Kurt Vonnegut’s Galapagos
Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? and Blade Runner
Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and The Walking Dead

and of course the man hiking for recreation
who had to cut off his own arm to survive
like a Greenland shark feeding for 27 decades
even if it must swallow this man and his Armani suit whole

you i must admit are nothing like this shark
your eyes warm and your body curved perfectly for mine
so that i am prone to say “to hell with survival”
because i’d rather live wrapped in your arms and legs instead


fantasy & memory (you drew me into you)

Big wet bottle in my fist
Big wet rose in my teeth
“All the Wine,” The National

we buy a bottle of wine
Cabernet i think
because i know nothing of wine
except you said it makes you affectionate

we find a Zooey Daschanel film on Netflix
500 Days of Summer
to watch while drinking wine
and barely paying any attention

i recall nothing about the wine
except its taste on your lips and tongue
and we may or may not have finished the film
although i will never forget the way you drew me into you

—P.L. Thomas

object permanence

One has no choice but to look at one’s reflection in the mirror.

Haruki Murakami, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

out of town we walk into a cramped Mexican restaurant
i resist thinking “claustrophobic” and running out

beside me you whisper “see what she is reading”
and i look at the slim volume on a small table

where a dark-haired woman in her 40s is sitting alone:
Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality, Part 1

compulsively my brain begins imagining who she is
while we are guided to jumbled tables in a corner

who reads Foucault midday in claustrophobic restaurants?
i wonder feeling your bare knee pressing against mine

one day we all come to realize
when someone leaves the room

that person still exists even when out of sight
like a toy hidden behind someone’s back

and then as well we come to recognize
we are surveilled always from every angle

but no one ever really sees us completely
(we prisoners of knowing only our reflections)

i do not run from the restaurant
but instead put my hand on your knee

under a table barely larger than a book
anchoring myself there to you

–P.L. Thomas

nonsense (she will grow tired of all this)

If as
close as we’re ever likely to get, you and I, is this—this close—
The Way One Animal Trusts Another, Carl Phillips

eventually [he told her]
she will grow tired of all this
nonsense that was who they had to be

it will be a holiday
spent alone just like her nights
but she will tire only of the nonsense

[and he had imagined her
before he ever believed in her
or of the possibility of her

what if i had a hideous birthmark
she taunted him smiling
as they both considered the curve of her]

the nonsense of cars and dark parking lots
the nonsense of silences and secrets
the nonsense of not here, please

nothing he could have discovered of her
would have deterred him from her or this

and nothing would ever erase from her heart him
stopping her from behind to kiss her bare shoulder

—P.L. Thomas

hearts (on carpe diem and mortality)

daily we fail our hearts
until the day our hearts fail us

—P.L. Thomas

drawing blood (the literalist)

he wanted to be the sort of artist
who could draw blood

so he kept his pencils sharp
& bought an X-Acto knife

—P.L. Thomas

chrysalis (i hold my words in awe)

i dream about a young man in love
driven to writing poetry
by his desire for a young woman

but the dream is about a film
about this young man in love
and his becoming a poet

i think about Joyce’s “Araby”
and that a film about writing poetry
cannot be anything except deadly boring

i dream/imagine the young man writing
and i try to hold onto the words
but the lines drafted slip away

even as i cannot separate the dream
from the layers of me as poet
and the impotency of words

like Faulkner’s Addie and Anse
in his dystopian and racist South
he carried like a rusting black anvil

the next morning i wake as usual
to our labs scratching the back door

we are the experiment of dogs training
owners to do their Pavlovian bidding

through the wake of this dream of a poet
and a restless night interrupted by barking

i discover Hera Lindsay Bird who is braver than i
who writes about being fucked from behind

while dropping names of canonical poets
who have become inevitably worm food

she also writes about Monica from “Friends”
with the same dexterity and stark profanity

until i realize i am as boring as a film
about a young poet madly in love

until i realize that my impotent words
could never satisfy her or maybe anyone

who isn’t already very well read
to the point of being the walking dead

because i cannot be as brave as she
i follow her on Twitter and check my blog stats

my granddaughter keeps brushing her hair
away from her eyes

i call her Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons
although she is beautiful

it is a brutally hot July day in South Carolina
as i watch her play

a tiny butterfly lands on her forehead just as she brushes
smudging it to dust on her eyebrow

because i cannot be as brave or beautiful as she
i hold my words in awe

—P.L. Thomas